Second Sunday of Advent
Reading 1 IS 40:1-5, 9-11
Responsorial Psalm PS 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14
- (8) Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.Reading 2 2 PT 3:8-14
Alleluia LK 3:4, 6
- Alleluia, alleluia.
Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths:
All flesh shall see the salvation of God.
- Gospel MK 1:1-8
- Click here to listen to homily
Homily—December 9 & 10, 2017 2nd Sunday of Advent
This year, the Second Sunday of Advent comes exactly in between two great feasts of Mary: the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe. The feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates Mary as the first one redeemed by Christ; we might think of her as the first fully human person in history, the one who fulfilled all her potential as a child of God, a fully self-giving collaborator with the plan of God. The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe brings the Gospel message uniquely home to the Americas. In celebrating La Morenita (as she is fondly called in Spanish-speaking cultures), we celebrate the fact that the Incarnation implies inculturation. Just as the word took flesh in the first century, Our Lady of Guadalupe is a visible image of Christianity’s ability to express itself in the signs and symbols, the language and culture of every people on earth.
The Second Sunday of Advent invites us to imagine what can be. Isaiah and the images of the Blessed Virgin give us a vision of what life can be like. We are created with the potential to share divine life, to share the joy of being part of a humanity at peace, smoothing out what divides us and rejoicing in the multiple ways our different cultures can incarnate the love of God. We will never make it happen if we don’t first imagine it. The call to repent is a call to let go of our sins that leave us feeling unfulfilled and frustrated with ourselves. The promise of forgiveness tells us that God will never condemn us to remain trapped in the selfishness we have chosen. There is always more possibility.
In the Gospel Mark pounces on his subject matter as a lion. Mark combines Malachi 3:1a with Isaiah 40:3 and applies both to the figure of John the Baptist. It’s as though Mark doesn’t have the time for precise details. He charges in. This is why Mark is often portrayed as a lion.
John the Baptist was the son of Zechariah, and Zechariah was a Temple priest. Since the priesthood was passed from father to son, we must assume that whatever John was doing in the desert (where we meet him every Advent), it had something to do with Temple and sacrifice.
When people came to the Jerusalem Temple, they were seeking the remission of their sins through the sacrificial mediation of the priests but before they could enter the precincts of the Temple, they were obliged to undergo a ritual washing called a mikvah. Since they could do this in Jerusalem it is surprising that people were traveling 17 miles to the Jordan River and experiencing an elevation change of 3,500 feet to experience the ritual cleansing of John the Baptist. He was dressed like Elijah and ate honey from the date palm and dried locusts that were dipped in spices. John’s promise of forgiveness of sins drew large crowds of people waiting for a new manifestation of God’s power. They were willing to make this journey with hope for a victory over sin in their lives.
Another story is told in the Christmas opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors”. It is about a poor crippled shepherd boy who lives with his single mother. They are asked to offer hospitality one night to the three Magi who are following the miraculous star. When the household falls asleep, Amahl’s mother, consumed with worry for her son’s future, tries to steal the gold the magi have brought as a gift for the newborn king.
She is, of course, caught in the act: but one of the Magi then tells her: “Woman, you may keep the gold. The child we seek doesn’t need our gold. On love, love alone, he will build his kingdom. His pierced hand will hold no scepter. His haloed head will wear no crown. . .He will soon walk among us. He will bring us new life and receive our death, and the keys to his city belong to the poor.” And the poor mother, deeply moved, cries out: “Wait. . .Take back your gold!” For such a king I’ve waited all my life.” We too are waiting for such a king.
Perhaps it is appropriate that we read these opening verses from Mark’s gospel on the Second Sunday of Advent with our busy lives, shopping lists, and details to which we must attend. The gospel, and especially its opening, seems to lend itself to our frenetic pace. Still there is the proclamation that something, someone, is coming mightier than our lists of things to get done. He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and our lives will never be the same.
Where has chaos gained a foothold in your life? How can Christ’s power help you overcome it?
How can you heal others or the wider world with the power of Christ that you bear?